Back in 1992, Billy Crystal starred in the movie Mr. Saturday Night, which he made his directed and co-wrote with Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. The film co-starred David Paymer as his brother. It didn’t do very well at the box-office, though I thought was reasonably entertaining.
Jump forward 30 years, and the movie has now been adapted into a Broadway musical and opens next week, on April 27. And Billy Crystal will again be starring in it – and David Paymer will be playing his brother. And the script has been written by… Billy Crystal, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel.
The 30-year gap, while a challenge, is not as odd as it would be on other projects. That’s because in the movie, the character of standup comic Buddy Young, Jr. ages about 30 years or so, to age 73 when he's largely washed-up, but has a chance for a big comeback -- and Crystal is now 74. So, that means rather than having to wear heavy make-up to look old, Crystal and Paymer will pretty much only need to wear a wig to play their younger selves.
I’m also intrigued by the musical score, for several reasons. On the one hand, the music is by Jason Robert Brown, a highly-accomplished composer, who has won two Tony Awards. On the other hand, he’s best-known for very serious, almost brooding works. His two Tonys, for instance, were for Parade (a true story from 1913 about a Jewish man wrongly accused of killing a black girl, and ultimately being lynched) and Bridges of Madison County, based on the movie with Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. He also won a Drama Desk Award for the off-Broadway show, The Last Five Years, about the break-up of a crumbling marriage. (It was made into a movie with Anna Kendrick. In fairness, for all its comedy, Mr. Saturday Night is not a laugh riot, and somewhat serious about a self-absorbed comic who has broken most of his relationships.
But what’s also odd is that Jason Robert Brown, who as far as I know has written both the music and lyrics to all his shows, is only writing the music for Mr. Saturday Night. Why not the lyrics, I have absolutely no idea. I’m also intrigued that the lyricist is Amanda Green who has a Tony nomination, which speaks well for her talent, though it’s for a show I’ve never heard of, Hands on a Hardbody, that closed after 28 performances.
So – it’s just sort of…intriguing. And I’m curious how that all came about.
CBS Sunday Morning did a nice feature recently about Crystal and the show, and it includes snippets of several songs (all of which he seems to do well). Here it is –
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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